Applying all Strasbourg case-law at national level could ‘save the Court from drowning’

Strasbourg, 01.10.2010 – National legislators and courts across Europe must better take into account judgments of the European Court of Human Rights even when they concern violations that have occurred in other countries, the Chair of PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights said today.

Speaking at a conference on the principle of subsidiarity in Skopje, Christos Pourgourides (Cyprus, EPP/CD) said this principle could be “the key to saving the Strasbourg Court from drowning in large numbers of repetitive cases”.

He gave the example of a Court ruling against Belgium in 1979 that children born out of wedlock should not face discrimination, pointing out that France changed its law only after the Court made a similar ruling against it in 2000: “Twenty years lost for the victims of such discrimination, and many years of unnecessary litigation!”

“Human rights violations must first and foremost be avoided,” Mr Pourgourides said, stressing that the judges in Strasbourg should step in only when remedies did not function at national level.

For the principle of subsidiarity to work, national courts must be made more aware of the Court’s judgments concerning other countries, he pointed out. But the Court itself would also have to exercise “self-restraint” by respecting States Parties’ “margin of appreciation” concerning fundamental moral issues or deep-rooted national traditions.